HOWELL — Animal cruelty charges have been filed against a couple after four stolen puppies in their care were found dead, including two whose bodies were found burned in a fire pit, according to Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

The remains of two German shepherd puppies were found May 18 in a fire pit on on a property in Howell where Daniel McDonald, 25, and Tricia Jaccoma, 24 were temporarily living with permission in a camper, Gramiccioni said. Another two were found buried on the property, he said. He didn't reveal the exact location of the property.

The couple had stolen the puppies from a Somerset County farm when they were about three weeks old around May 12, Gramiccioni said. The couple had previously been staying at that farm, the prosecutor said.

The dogs had breathing issues prior to their deaths and McDonald and Jaccoma did not get them any medical attention because of the cost, Gramiccioni said.

A necropsy performed on the two buried puppies revealed they were severely emaciated and malnourished with “no indications of recent nutritional ingestion” and had parasites, according to the prosecutor. He said the couple disposed of the puppies' bodies on the fire pit and by burying them around May 16.

McDonald was apprehended and is being held at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution, he said. Jaccoma is currently a fugitive.

A generator reported stolen out of South Brunswick and a John Deere front-end loader reported stolen in Monroe in Middlesex County were also found on the Howell property, Gramiccioni said. McDonald was additionally charged with second- and third-degree receiving stolen property. He is scheduled for a pre-indictment conference on July 6.

Authorities are asking anyone with information about Jaccoma's whereabouts to contact the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at 732 995-0329, or Howell Township Police Department at 732-938-4111.

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